We have all heard the stories of £5 Indian’s down the Army Disposal store and for the extra £2 you could get a sidecar these were of course were usually brand new in the crate! Sadly this was about 8 years before I was into bikes, when I was old enough things had gone up. the panel beater at work Ronnie O’Shea said he wanted to buy a Triumph one Saturday morning in 1968 so he skimmed through the Age classifieds and there were a plethora of them, his criteria was they needed to be in the surrounding area he bought a gem 1955 Thunderbird for $125 close by in Northcote ! That’s the way it was, things like BSA singles were $60-$80 but within a few years prices rose, in 1969 I bought a ex-police Triumph Saint for $650 and my mate bought a 1948 Norton for $380 in excellent condition.
Things jumped in about 1977 when Classic Bike/Classic Motorcycle magazines from the UK came out with a solid emphasis on early motorcycles from that period on prices rapidly rose, within 10 years people were restoring machines that would have been scrapped earlier and literally starting with a wheel or a frame and building a completely concourse motorcycle, sure the numbers didn’t match but then again in those days who cared. Interestingly though those guys in that era were in their thirties or forties so the bikes sold at handsome profits to people with disposable incomes that had the mortgage paid and the kids flown the coop, in that period thousands of machines were annually being re-imported from the states and some people made much money quickly.
The emphasis on the bikes in the nineties came under scrutiny as well with engine and frame number matched bikes being held in high esteem and the others that weren’t unfortunately being valued far less even if in most cases better machines of course in the late nineties collectors hit the scene and affordable machines became unaffordable, even common bikes like BSA Bantams went skyrocketing up and anything old supposedly was worth having by then the buyers were in their forties or fifties.
So time rolls on and stops for no man or machine as we know and by the turn of the millennium Ford Falcons we’re hedging $1M and Vincents were over $100k our buyers we’re hitting 50 or 60 and they were attracted to classic cruisers like Indian 4s they were close to $160k and more good seventies sport bikes were still reasonable a 1975 Ducati 90SS could be had for a measly $30k for example, common Norton and Triumph were still around $10k “Blue Chip” bikes were holding a good dollar though. Stupid prices started when large auction houses started selling and everyone thought their bike should be worth what such an example sold for that sale in an Auction!
Pre COVID things were even surprising me and buyers were 60-70 years old.
Post Covid things were slower, sure classic bikes were selling but cautiously and electric start models were sought after for people riding in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride the younger guys rode “rat” bikes and wouldn’t know a Vincent from a Yamachuci and these are the guys that are lusting after nineties bikes not British clunkers or European unreliability. Classic racing took a “hit” ten years earlier as the bikes became unaffordable and the riders to old to ride a Manx it should have been a signal for the whole scene. Around 2021 things hit inflation was rising and less disposable income, houses became even more unaffordable and for investors bank interest was rising so investing in “classic” machines tapered off rapidly, the days of the $250,000 Vincent Black Shadow is well gone such machines have dropped $100k now the era of the $50k Vincent Comet has them now at $25-$30k, the $25k Norton Commando is now a memory so is the $50k Ducati 750 GT which is now back to $35k the same as the Triumph X75 Hurricane. Guess what those seventy to eighty year olds now invest money at the bank and can’t kickstart their bikes and the 50 year olds are buying nineties machines and that lucrative classic bike you have stored in the garage has now “tanked” if you can and are capable of riding it then do it as they are soon going to be like vintage models either museum pieces or worth very little. Not riding them causes a domino effect as they don’t wear out and manufacturers cease making parts or the parts are unaffordable and not worth buying for a low value motorcycle, things deteriorate quickly after that try buying bits for a 1916 Zenith and you will see what I mean, yes age for man and machine is a killer.